Awaken to the New Mexico Wilderness

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Leaving Lordsburg, I walked about four miles on the Highway (70) and then slipped (literally) under a fence to begin searching for signs indicating the CDT. The terrain was rough initially, everything low, prickly and barbed. A species of large black grasshopper that I’d never seen before proliferated everywhere. The occasional tarantula crossing my path.

Water was troublesome from the beginning. The best sources have been the windmill-fed farm tanks. The water certainly doesn’t look tantalizing, but the tanks are often full. One source was so low, though, that I was forced to cut one of my bottle to make a scoop. This was after I’d foolishly used up the store of my bottles for washing.

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Alongside this challenge, I had to acknowledge that I was consistently falling short of my goal of covering fifteen miles a day. This proved particularly difficult as the route took me into the mountains, although this area was also the most clearly marked section of the trail I’d yet encountered. You come out finally in a park area with a sign warning of “Bear Country”. I crossed the highway twice in this area. Did some rough camping on rocky high ground, too tired by then to search for a better spot and the light was ebbing.

That night I decided to turn around. I had by that point encountered three water spots that were bone dry, and things were beginning to feel dire. The CDT in general seems much more geared for spring hikers going northbound. There was no trail magic here for me, and even many of the water spots indicated on the map were not viable. The few days I spent out there were well worth it, though.

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Spurred by such concerns, I made as many miles (retracing my steps) over the next two days as I had in the first three. I passed former landmarks - an ancient, disintegrating house of black wood; the stone foundation of an unknown building; trails of quartz running down hillsides.

On my last night camping out before reaching Lordsburg again I heard thunderstorms to both the north and east, moving closer as the night progressed. My trepidation mounted as I thought about how my tent was by far the most prominent structure in that whole stretch of flat prairie. I meditated to calm myself as the tent walls were pelted by rain and hail.

I was so eager to get back into town, because of these adverse conditions, that I awoke at 6 a.m. - after 4 hour’s sleep - and was packed and ready to go in an hour. By the time I reached the nearest grocery store I wanted to gulp down everything in their cooler. If you want to enjoy the most refreshing and best tasting glass of lemonade in your life, hike in the desert for a week first.